Friday, May 04, 2012

Lockheed Martin Tweetup Adventure! May 1&2, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, on a seemingly calm Thursday, I was on my way to work at UNO as usual. I arrived, parked my car and stepped out. I suddenly heard a VERY loud noise overhead, made by none other than The Blue Angels who were practicing on our campus for the weekend airshows as part of NOLA Navy Week! (picture is of me with Navy Chaplain Holiman of the USS Wasp. He came to St. Paul's on Sunday morning and spoke to us about how sailors from various ships and
countries were volunteering to bring back our NOLA Lakefront)
WOW! I know they are amazing and have childhood memories from an airshow in SC that made my adrenaline rush. I went inside and to my office. Straight away, I completely opened and raised the blinds and got out my camera. I could NOT get anything done at all that day! It was so tantalizingly distracting to have them buzzing our building and flying all around. A few folks were giggling at me walking between offices trying to catch a glimpse of them through the windows. Then, it was time for my giganto music appreciation class. Today's class was being held in the UNO Recital Hall instead of the often-messy Liberal Arts room 140 and I was having two special guests talk to my class: Dr. Juliette Ioup, physicist, and Bobby Skinner a UNO graduate of our MM program who is a Theramin expert and Big Easy award performance winner!

So, after the class was finished and students were getting to try their hands at playing the "Instrument of Psychosis", I was cringing because the Blue Angels were beginning to practice again and I wanted to be out at the Lakeshore watching them! I sat in the hall playing with my iPhone and wondering how long it would take to straighten the hall up and BUZZZZZ, a bird flew by. I wondered: What kind of planes are those? As I googled, I found they were F/A 18s made my Boeing and also the C-130 Hercules by Lockheed Martin. Then, as I was sifting through the Lockheed Martin website, I remembered an INSANELY COOL picture I had seen back in February of a plane flying next to a MISSILE. The image had't left me, so amazing!!! I continued to explore their website and found the Lockheed Martin Tweetup page! I just happened to notice that the deadline for a Tweetup on May 1 & 2 was in 35 minutes!!! Quickly, I decided whether or not I could attend and how I'd shift one class assignment.......I decided to register. I saw that the Tweetup was about the F-22 Raptor (total air domination) being delivered to the US Air Force and the history of fighter jets.
Now, Here I must intersperse that my father: Ashmead Courtenay Carson, Jr. was a bomber pilot in WWII and he would have loved this. As an Army Air Corps and then an Air Force pilot, he was my hero! Then, I noticed it was about 25 minutes til 5:00 EST and that I'd better start applying. During my iPhone typing, I realized that it must be 22 minutes til the hour and since it was a Tweetup for the F-22, this must be good luck. They were to let us know the very next day whether or not we would be selected and I decided that I needed something else to concentrate on besides waiting for the Bariatric lottery (another post coming soon)!
The next day, I left work and went out to the Lake Ponchartrain, hoping to find the Angels practicing, luck....sitting in the hot sun for 30 minutes and ....nothing. Then, I decdied to drive home rather than wait two hours. Halfway home, I just had this feeling and turned back aroung to go to the lakeshore. I passed through security by telling the officer I was going to "the left" instead of the right when she asked and also that I was UNO  faculty and "They" had said were were ok to be in the area. I parked my car at the UNO Foundation and stayed in the air conditioning with my gatorade. About 30 min later, The Blue Angels started flying overhead and I was able to see a FANTASTIC air show. This turned out to be super fortunate because they ended up canceling BOTH of their NOLA Navy Week shows.
I got LOTS of great photographs and found myself beaming and smiling from ear to ear for over an hour. I stood under a tree in the shade with two sweet older gentlemen and we just gt silly every time they did a flip in the air or went straight up!
Here is a link to my Facebook photo album of their practice!
Nearing the end of the air show, I received an email saying I had been selected for the Lockheed Martin Tweetup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was jumping up & down again!!!!!!!!

So, I made the class arrangements and made absolutely sure my students were prepared and had assignments and made hotel reservations as soon as I went home. This past Monday, after the voice class recital (which went very well), I left and drove to Atlanta. It was an uneventful drive and I was pretty exhausted when I got there. The hotel was a Quality Inn about five minutes from Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA. It was clean and the King bed was indeed a K I N G bed, GIANT! I got some Coca Cola and read a little bit before falling asleep.
The next day, I was nervous, as I always am when meeting new people or approaching a new situation, but I pressed onward! I arrived and met the social media team and fellow tweeps from Twitterverse. It was very nice! We were badged and checked out and then taken via bus (into which I checked using Foursquare so that the next day I'd be the mayor, HA!) to a conference room where we introduced each other and met some administation as well as wonderful volunteers who were with us for the two days. We met Fighter pilots Brett Luedke and "Trigger" Jeff Wallace and talked with them about flying the F-22. Then, we saw a video presentation on the F-22 and the evolution of fighter jets and aviation defense. I learned a lot! Pilot Brett said his father was also a WWII bomber pilot so I talked with him a little about what kinds of planes Dad must have flown and where he was stationed as well as flight paths up to Italy from Africa.
I learned that if "Trigger" approves the F-22, the gov't will shell out $150 million for it! WHOA! What a position to be in! Brett is actually the record holder for altitude - he got to 68,000 feet with the F-22 Raptor! Yikes!
The Raptor is fairly robust in its life cycle. There are rarely problems with its systems. Most issues are with avionics, core processors, or computers. This 5th generation aircraft features Air-Air, Air-Ground, ISR Range and persistence, sensor flexibility, and stealth. We all were in agreement that if we have such technology, we have the responsibility to put it in the hands of our nation's defense. Keith Bilyeu of LM talked to us at length about air defense and safety. We discussed growing technologies and budgets. It was so interesting to be a part of all of this. Definitely, it's something I have thought of before, but that I have never had access to see or opportunities to discuss with fellow music peeps. They mostly must roll their eyes at me for anything science. My opinions I keep to myself many times because environments in which I often speak are not often as open as they say they are. I always remember the line from the movie Contact "we will not be supressing any opinions here today" and I strive to abide by that. Much has been said about our nation's defense and air stealth. Many people are uncomfortable with talking about weapons and warfare even though it's very present in today's world. When we slack off on technology to save money, we are often surprised by other countries' improvements. It's short-sighted not to invest in technology and I firmly believe that it is also the responsibility of the average person to be aware of basic scientific and technological advances. Call me crazy : P
Both Brett and Trigger began as pilots as a gateway to NASA.
Then, lunch was served and we had group discussion. After this, we got a tour of the factory. Lockheed Martin is 76 football fields long! Because of security and protocols, we were not allowed to take photos in many places or facing certain directions. LM actually had two photographers follow us around and take pictures for us. They're posted on their Flickr feed, but they also said we could download them and use some as we saw fit so I integrated them into my Facebook album from the Tweetup which will be at the bottom of this post.
Now came the tour, led by Mike Fox, Dir of Operations. It was awesome to see many 1,000's of pieces of planes at every stage! They can rotate stations every seven days and produce about 36 aircraft every year! Inside, there were flags from many countries and signs everywhere about safety. One sign reads "One covered up mistake is the life of a brave pilot". Many signs were for FOD (Foreign Object Debris) "FOD Stops Now" and there were FOD stations everywhere. FOD can get sucked up into air ducts and jets and in places that would cause a lethal technical and/or mechanical failure. Even our bus had to stop and check the tires for FOD. Then, he rolled forward by 5 inches and checked them again after their partial roll.
Only the rudder of a plane is painted before assembly because it must be extremely aerodynamically sound! There are about 300 opportunities for inspection along the way and many times, the customer of a certain aircraft will come and visit. Tons of military work at Lockheed Martin and about 800 people work in the factory pictured. They have a Union and I noticed a lot of smiling face and a great deal of personal pride that they worked here! It was wonderful to see. I headr over and over from different people that it was like a family, especially on individual plane and series projects. Employees we talked to got teary-eyed talking about how they were delivering the last Raptor F-22 and that it was hard to do. This is how I feel about my job in choral music and it was so refreshing to see their enthusiasm for all aspects of what they do!
After the tour we got to try out the flight simulator!!!!! This was a lot of fun. Glad I had thought ahead and taken my motion sickness meds that morning :-)
This is a pic of me in the simulator. I was able to take out two ground targets, switch to Air-Air and then get two mlore moving targets. There were lots of screens and radars and buttons. I probably owe my success to our guide.....or perhaps pre-programming.
After the sim, we got the "Windshield Tour" of the Flight Line and went to the "Boneyard". There, we saw older planes, including eight Libyan planes that were embargoed after made and had to remain in the US.
That night, we had diner together at Taco Mac in Kennesaw. I liked the group very much! I always feel so dang awkward in new groups, but at least I didn't spill anything on myself.
The next day, we were badged and given photo press passes. Then we took our bus to the other side of the facility and were led through giant lines of people waiting to be let in. There was a veritable paparazzi of people snapping our pictures as we walked through to our seats. It was cool. :-)  Our seats were terrific and we sat to await the delivery ceremony. They opened with a moment of silence for Lt. Walsh, a fallen American solider who was finally coming home. Then, we stood as the colors were being presented and the official party was entering. The USAF Reserve Brass Quintet played. Shan Cooper, VP Aeronautics, Larry Lawson, Gen Mgr, Sen Johnny Isackson (GA), and General Norton Schwartz - Chief of Staff of the USAF spoke. They exchanged symbolic keys to the craft and saluted. Then, a cool video of aircaft in war was shown and the hangar began to open. Bit by bit, it was raised until the crowd could see the Raptor! Cheering!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
We all went outside for a GIANT group picture in the blazing sun and after we had gotten lots of photos of the "Baddest Bird in the Air", we were served a light lunch. I didn't eat much b/c I was meeting brother Neville and his wife Julie on my way home! It was sad to go, but wow, what a tremendous piece of aviation I got to know! It was a FABULOUS experience and kudos to Lockheed Martin on all that they do. They are a stellar company and marvelous hosts. Everyone was genuinely open and excited about what they do. The company is amazingly well-managed and run. This Tweetup helped put a face on a company and helped me understand a part of what my father was part of as a pilot in the defense of our country's freedom. I think he would have been happy and proud that I was interested in this and that I was lucky enough to attend! Thank you Lockheed Martin, for such a grand and informative time and for the fun gifts you gave us!
Facebook album for the #LMTweetup pictures!

1 comment:

Caroline of Carsonia said...

Here is the Lockheed Martin Storify link: